Woolmer death probe team under fire

By Robert Verkaik

The Jamaican police force is facing growing pressure to make a public apology to the Pakistan cricket team over the investigation into the death of coach Bob Woolmer.

New evidence sent to the Jamaican authorities is believed to show that Mr Woolmer died of natural causes and was not murdered as the police had originally claimed.

The 58-year-old Pakistan team coach was found unconscious in his hotel room during the Cricket World Cup on March 18th after his players had suffered a humiliating defeat to the lowly ranked Irish.

He was later pronounced dead in hospital.

Kingston pathologist, Dr Ere Seshaiah, who carried out a post mortem, said after his initial autopsy that the cause of death was inconclusive.

But when he re-examined the body, he decided Woolmer's death was caused by "asphyxiation as a result of manual strangulation", pointing to bruises in tissues of the neck.

This triggered a major murder investigation which overshadowed events on the field and led to speculation that the Pakistan players might be somehow implicated in their own coach's death.

Later it emerged that a toxology report had indicated the presence of weedkiller in Mr Woolmer's body leading to the new theory that Mr Woolmer, 58, had been poisoned and then strangled.

During the ten-week investigation the players and their backroom staff were finger-printed, swabbed for DNA and interviewed by Jamaican police.

Yesterday Pakistan team spokesman Pervez Mir repeated his belief that Mr Woolmer died of natural causes, and accused the police of marring the World Cup with the murder investigation.

Mr Mir, speaking to Sky Sports News, said the team assisted the police investigation, but that "never in a million years could I even think anyone in the Pakistan team could have been or would have been involved in that".

He said: "I think they should make a public apology, and right now I'm on my way into Pakistan where I will be recommending to the chairman of the board to take necessary legal action unless the Jamaican police formally apologise to the Pakistan team, to the Zimbabwean team, the Irish team and the West Indian team, who were all staying in the hotel."

He added: "There was so much insinuation, so much name throwing, finger pointing and all of that, and I'm afraid the Jamaican police and the pathologist will be held responsible for marring the World Cup, for creating mistrust and distrust among the cricketing fraternity."After the murder investigation was announced suspicion immediately fell on the Pakistani players, who might have killed Mr Woolmer during a heated argument about the manner of the team's defeat.

Later speculation centred on the idea that Woolmer was about to blow the lid on an international match-fixing scandal and that he may have been killed by a member of the gang he was going to expose.

Further murder theories developed around the idea that a hotel towel or length of fabric was used to carry out the killing.

There was even a theory that he was killed with an ancient form of poison called aconite, also known as wolfsbane, featured in the Harry Potter novels.

One of the more extreme suggestions was that he has murdered in an al-Q'aida plot to disrupt the Cricket World Cup.

On Thursday, Jamaican police said they were analysing new information on the death of Mr Woolmer, but refused to comment on reports he was not murdered.

Police Commissioner Lucius Thomas said: "We are in receipt of some material. We are studying it and we will make a statement shortly to address the whole issue of Bob Woolmer," but did not say when an announcement would be made.

It has been reported that police now believe the former England player died of heart failure and are set to make an announcement.

Mr Thomas said investigators "are hearing all of these rumours" but refused to comment on the media reports.

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